New findings from a multicenter study show universal salt iodisation leads to adequate iodine nutrition during the first 1000 days

Geneva, 11 April 2018 - 

New findings from a multi-center study show universal salt iodisation leads to adequate iodine nutrition during the first 1000 days.

A new study shows that universal salt iodisation provides sufficient dietary iodine to ensure adequate iodine intake during the first 1000 days of life and prevents cognitive impairments due to iodine deficiency.

Iodine deficiency is a leading cause of preventable brain damage worldwide. Lack of dietary iodine in the earliest years of life, from conception through to a child’s second birthday can result in neurological and psychological deficits, reducing a child’s IQ by up to 10 points. Pregnant women, lactating women and infants have high dietary iodine requirements and it has been uncertain if iodized salt provides amounts large enough to cover the periods of the life cycle with increased physiological needs.

An international research team, led by ETH Zurich in collaboration with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and with inputs from UNICEF, demonstrate that if most salt for human consumption is iodized, salt will provide sufficient dietary iodine to all population groups, including the population groups which are vulnerable to iodine deficiency. Breastfed and weaning infants are covered by iodized salt through the consumption of breast milk with adequate iodine content.

Baby wearing blue striped shirt puts fingers in his mouth

Baby wearing a blue striped shirt holds on a person hand in South Africa. © GAIN 

However, adequate iodine intake during the first 1000 days can only be ensured if the coverage of iodized salt is high. Although iodized salt is available in most countries worldwide, the coverage remains low in many countries. This results in lower than recommended iodine intake  among  pregnant women, lactating women and infants who are at risk of iodine deficiency.

The study confirms that the risk of excess iodine intake in school age children and women of reproductive age is low if salt is fortified at recommended levels.

“The study indicates the importance of monitoring iodine status in women of reproductive age and/or pregnant women to identify populations with incomplete coverage of iodized salt and inadequate iodine intake”, says Dr. Maria Andersson at ETH Zurich, who coordinated the study conducted in China, the Philippines and Croatia.

Greg S. Garrett, Director of Food Policy & Financing at GAIN, the organization funding the study, stresses that “The findings provide new evidence and impetus that salt iodisation must be scaled up to cover all salt for human consumption in order to prevent the debilitating effects of iodine deficiency which still affect some 19 million newborns every year.”